Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Prep School Negro on Ms. Rachel Jeantel

The C•O•W•S• began July with a visit from Gwendolyn Valencia Lee's son, André Robert Lee. We discussed his  documentary film (The Prep School Negro), Clarence Thomas, and George Zimmerman's trial. Mr. Lee's comments on Ms. Rachel Jeantel were appreciated and important. #ANTIBLACKNESS
When I think about the responses people had to her, you know, there's so much pain associated with so many people. For one, White people just couldn't take her. It was just too much. That guy, Mr. West, the criminal defense attorney, in a sense we almost can't criticize him too much cause he was just doing his job. You know? The job connected to the political system, the justice system is another long story. But his job was to destroy her and make her look... to take her credit away. That's his number one job, and he did it so well. It just so happens that we had this heavyweight, dark-skinned, African-American woman - young woman, who had never been in this environment.
I think about my community. When I first went to Germantown Friends School, you know, people made fun of me because of the way spoke. And my mother was a heavyset black woman. And people in our community [black people] made fun of her. And she had her own issues that were never connected to that. So when I looked at her, and I saw how much power she had up on that stand. You know? Cause she wasn't taking no stuff! You know? Part of me wished that she had been trained a little bit to deal with the pressure of being in court. But the other part of me saw how free she was. She had a level of freedom that was almost too much for the world to take.
I've had friends say things like I wish she was more articulate. And I'm like, what's that about? What's in you to say you wish she was more articulate? She was so strong on that stand. But I think when I'm getting my connection with the Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and the story, was that I think that the observation that many people had about her and the criticism people had about her, were connected to folks' own personal pain. They looked at this heavyset, dark-sinned woman who didn't speak "proper english" and they were ready to come at her and destroy her because she was embarrassing and terrible. And needed to be more articulate. And needed to be more clear.
And I said, for me, she is like a character out of an Alice Walker novel. She is so free. She is so free. And she didn't want to be there. But she was there. Yes, I wish she understood the court system a little bit more beyond what she sees on TV. But she had her own personal existence. She had no desire to be there, but she was forced into that spotlight and that space.

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